Minister abused & harassed woman, new suit says
Clergyman has now started a new church in Hazelwood
From pulpit, AME official said victim is “the devil” and “going to hell”
Church process “was degrading and humiliating,” lawsuit charges
Suit: “Officials want to harass and deter victims of sexual assault from reporting”
SNAP deplores church figures for not calling police & retaliating against woman
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will
– disclose a new civil lawsuit charging that an African American minister sexually harassed and assaulted a female staffer and church member,
– urge officials with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church to aggressively reach out to others who “saw, suspected or suffered” the ministers crimes, and
– prod anyone with information or suspicions of crimes or misdeeds by the minister to “come forward, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing.
Thursday, Jan. 30 at 1:15 p.m.
Outside Wayman AME Church (314-361-4123), 5010 Cabanne Ave. at Kingshighway in north St. Louis
A new civil lawsuit charges that Rev. Brenda Jones was sexually harassed and assaulted by Rev. Frederick McCullough and that AME officials treated her horribly when she reported the crimes.
According to the suit: “In 2011, Jones became a preacher and a member of Wayman Church, the same year that Rev. Frederick McCullough was assigned there. The next year, McCullough made escalating sexually inappropriate comments to her and forcing her to see a photo of McCullough’s penis. A month later, in his office, he grabbed her, tried to kiss her, forced her to bend over his desk, pulled up her skirt, tried to pull her undergarments down but she escaped. In December of 2012, McCullough again assaulted her in the church.”
Church officials knew, the suit says, that McCullough had sexually harassed other women he supervised or pastored to in AME churches (including in Georgia and Nebraska) before assaulting Jones but did not tell her or others “of McCullough’s propensity to sexually harass and assault women.” In 2004, for instance, AME officials “were aware that McCullough had engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a girl” and in 2010, they knew that McCullough “made inappropriate sexual comments to a female pastor.”
Church officials refused to report the allegations against McCullough “to law enforcement authorities, prospective parishioners, current parishioners, their families, victims, or the public,” the suit says. AME officials refused to investigate “until Jones filed a formal written complaint, and then subjected her to a three-month internal quasi-judicial process while letting McCullough stay in his position and disparage Jones from the pulpit.”
The suit charges that the church process “was degrading and humiliating and was conducted to harass and deter victims of sexual assault from reporting their injuries.” Even when the process ended, church officials continued to harass and defame Jones, and “retaliated against her for reporting McCullough’s unlawful behavior.”
Last fall, at church meetings, an AME bishop said that Jones “is the devil, is going to hell., should drop her case,” shared fault with McCullough and “will lose her case because (he) has a big time Jewish lawyer from Beverly Hills, California, who never lost a case.”
SNAP is applauding Jones for “seeking justice, using her name, protecting others from a predatory minister and his corrupt church supervisors and helping to inspire others who have been hurt in African American churches to step forward.” The group maintains that often it's especially hard for those who are sexually harassed, exploited or abused in the African American community to speak up.
McCullough now heads Restoration House Community Church (which he started), 8390 Latty Ave., in Hazelwood (522 6200, RHCC.STL@gmail.com) His lives at 2115 Victor in St. Louis and his photo is here: http://rhccstl.org/
He has worked at Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama and St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Omaha.
The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages and was filed in St. Louis city. Defendants include McCollough, the AME national denomination, Wayman AME church, the Fifth Episcopal District of the AME church and AME Presiding prelate Bishop T. Larry Kirkland of Marina Del Ray CA (310-577-8530, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jones is represented by St. Louis attorney Ken Chackes (314 872 8420, 369 3902, email@example.com).
The denomination's Fifth District is represented by attorney Robert Silverman (626.342 9261). Attorney Douglass Selby (404 888 4207) represents the AME denomination itself.